The Campbell House Museum is located at 160 Queen St W (at University Ave on the northwest corner) in Downtown Toronto. The year 2022 marks the home’s 200th anniversary and 50th anniversary of the move to Queen St W and University Ave.
The Architecture of the Historic Home
The 2½-storey late Georgian-era home was built in 1822 by Sir William Campbell. It was initially located at 300 Adelaide St E (then known as 46-56 Duke St), opposite Frederick St. The Campbell House is the only remaining residential structure from the Town of York.
The red-brick home has a symmetrical south façade. The main entrance features wood steps and doors, a fanlight and a single-storey, half-round portico supported on four columns. Other exterior architectural highlights of the Palladian-style home include an oval window in the enclosed pediment, tall windows with louvred wood shutters, and quarter-round windows in the attic level on the east and west sides.
Inside the home is a central hall with a semi-circular wood staircase and a fanlight over the north door. There are also original pine floors, brick fireplaces and tall ceilings with plaster mouldings. A room of historical significance is the basement kitchen which features a restored brick floor, fireplace, hearth and oven.
About Sir Campbell
Sir William Campbell played a key role in the early history of the city and province. Born in Caithness, Scotland, in 1758, he first studied law, then became a soldier. Sir Campbell moved to Nova Scotia, becoming a lawyer and politician. In 1811, he and his family moved to the Town of York (then the capital of Upper Canada) as the British crown gave him a judgeship. Sir Campbell was the 6th Chief Justice of Upper Canada and the first judge in Canada to receive a knighthood. In 1829, he retired from the bench.
Sir William Campbell passed away in 1834. His funeral service was held at the Cathedral Church of St James. The land was willed to his wife, Hannah, and was in her name until 1844.
The Home After the Campbell’s
The property was then owned by various families, including O’Neill, Webber Smith, Sutherland Stayner, Strathy and Fensom. Starting in the late 1800s, the home was then occupied by several businesses, including Fensom Elevator, Otis-Fensom Elevator, The Capewell Horse Nail Company, Hobbs Glass and Masco Electric.
In the mid-1960s, the Campbell House spent a few years vacant until Coutts-Hallmark Greeting Cards purchased the property. They wanted to extend their parking lot and offered the home to anyone who could remove it. A lawyers association called The Advocates Society formed the Sir William Campbell Foundation to save the house from demolition. The Foundation, along with the City of Toronto and the Canada Life Insurance Company, entered into an agreement to move the home to the northwest corner of Queen St W and University Ave.
On the Move
Just after daybreak on March 31, 1972 (Good Friday), the 200-ton heritage home was lifted off its foundation at 300 Adelaide St E and loaded onto three dollies with 56 wheels. It made the slow trek through Toronto’s downtown streets, heading west on Adelaide St to University Ave, then turned north towards Queen St W. Traffic lights and signs as well as hydro, telephone and streetcar wires had to be temporarily repositioned or taken down along the 1.6 km path. There was much media coverage for the move of the 150-year-old home. Hundreds of people lined the streets to see the extraordinary sight.
A year later, the Campbell House was one of the 490 buildings on Heritage Toronto’s initial induction list.
The Campbell House Today
On September 22, 2022, the Campbell House Museum had a double-anniversary celebration. It was the home’s 200th anniversary and 50th anniversary of the move to Queen St W and University Ave.
Protecting the home was the start of the historic preservation effort in the city. The grounds of the Campbell House Museum feature a permanent exhibition called Lost & Found with fragments from Toronto’s lost buildings (similar to the rescued relics at Guild Inn Estate). Along with museum exhibits and events, the Campbell House is available for private functions.
Campbell House Museum Photos
Lost & Found Building Fragments at Campbell House Museum